Tue 15 Nov 2022

‘A mix of joy and relief’ - Lindholm on WRC2 title

It’s been a breakthrough year for Emil Lindholm and, last week at FORUM8 Rally Japan, the Finn was crowned champion on his debut year in WRC2.

Lindholm arrived at the season finale on identical points with Škoda Fabia Rally2 rival Kajetan Kajetanwicz - knowing the fastest man in Aichi would likely be walking away with the title. His team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen also remained in contention despite not competing at the event. 

But all plans of a head-to-head scrap went out of the window on Friday morning when Kajetanowicz suffered a heavy crash on the day’s opening stage - leaving Lindholm with the burdensome task of safely bringing the car home with a top-five result to guarantee the championship.

He achieved just that. Ending the rally in third overall after easing off the throttle for Sunday’s treacherous final leg, Lindholm was a very happy man.

“It’s a mix of joy and relief,” he said at the finish.  “It doesn’t matter who it is, it’s never nice to see a car off the road. 

“In some ways [Kajetanowicz’s retirement] obviously made our weekend a bit easier, but in other ways no. It’s always easier to drive and to have a good rhythm instead of trying to be safe. I realised that we didn’t have to fight, and we could relax, but it's not always easy to manage it and stay focused in that situation. I was a bit worried about that, but finally we are here. 

“Wow, it's much more than I could believe," he continued. “To achieve this - it’s incredible. I really want to thank the team - everyone, the supporters and sponsors for making this possible. It's been long and not always easy, but here we are. It was worth it.”

Lindholm’s season didn’t get off to the best of starts when he and co-driver Reeta Hämäläinen crashed out of contention in Sweden. Their campaign quickly picked up, though, with back-to-back podiums in Croatia and Estonia.

Victory on home soil in Finland - aided by Teemu Suninen’s disqualification for a technical rule breach - was a turning point, and it was quickly followed by the same result in Greece. The pair finished fourth after puncturing on day one at Rally RACC - Rally de España before finally getting the job done in Japan. 

“I’ve made my fair share of mistakes and I’ve also learned from them,” reflected Lindholm. “It’s not always been easy - but now it’s going our way, and let’s hope this continues for the future as well. 

“Finland was quite unexpected in a way because, with Teemu being disqualified, it gave us a lot more points. Greece, as well, was a rally I never thought I’d win. There have definitely been a lot of surprises this year.”

WRC2 Highlights: FORUM8 Rally Japan

Quizzed on his plans for 2023, the new champion remained tight-lipped. Should the opportunity for a top-tier drive surface, Lindholm doesn’t want to overwhelm himself. 

“I have some plans [for 2023], but we still need to see,” he explained. “The step is big from WRC2 to WRC, that’s for sure. 

“The cars are much faster, and the level is higher. I wouldn’t want to go there, let’s say, not feeling that it’s the right time. But okay, let’s see what the future brings.”

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM